Merry Christmas all!
Before I flip back through my phone to see all the richness and busyness of 2023, I thought I’d share what I’m learning these days.
Every year, the week of Thanksgiving, our family goes off to the Houston Garden Center to select a live tree for our living room. Some years it’s been cold, some have been warm. Some years kids have been sick and some we’ve been well. This year was a little earlier than most because the boys were going to be gone after Thanksgiving day and wouldn’t be here to help select and deliver the tree.
So on November 21st, right before leaving for the family farm for Thanksgiving, we all piled in the truck to pick out a tree. It wasn’t our finest day and we weren’t all getting along.
We rushed through the picking, anxious to get it “done,” and get back home to the list of things to do and with teenagers a little less in awe of the family Christmas outing than they used to be. Luckily, without much effort, we found a great tree. One we all liked and one that smelled good and still looked fresh. We motioned to the man there to help us carry it out and paid the bill.
As we checked out, a lovely young couple came up to pay for their tree too. It was gorgeous. Almost twice the size of ours. This was a tree that would look gorgeous in a vaulted ceiling living room with matching ornaments and a designer tree skirt. We don’t have any of that.
Our home is a one story with regular old ceilings that won’t accommodate an oversized tree. We place the tree next to a bookshelf, and in order to fit the star on top and fit it in the space, the tree can be a little over six feet and full but not a crazy fat or tall tree.
I was struck with jealousy. I thought we had this beautiful tree until I saw theirs. Then I felt pretty dissatisfied. I’ve never had a big foyer or vaulted ceilings or designer ornaments. Some of you have never cared about any of that but I’ll admit I’m an appearances person. (Ask my husband as I tried on six outfits for Christmas Eve service last night and didn’t like any of them… but I digress.)
Then I realized this same thing happens nearly every year. We pick a tree we all fall in love with, and then someone checks out with a bigger, fancier tree than ours. And every year, I feel a twinge. I don’t say anything to my family, I’m not going to be the selfish shallow mom, and I hope they don’t notice it.
This year, it really hit me. Maybe because I’m raising 8th graders and I see the absolute brutality of comparison. I’m watching how we’re all becoming a people of comparison. Theirs is nicer. I want that brand name because she/he has it. If only…
It’s not just middle school folks.
Maybe you’re immune. Good on you.
But I’ll confess, I am not.
And so this Christmas, as I reflect on the goodness and richness of our life, I think about what comparison robs us of. How on that crazy, chaotic Christmas night all those years ago, how easy it would have been for Mary to compare. Gosh, I wish I’d gotten that big wedding (which I would have if I hadn’t been pregnant). Man I wish I was like my friends and surrounded by my mom and friends when it came time to have a baby instead of in this strange town. Why can’t we be like those with more means and have a comfortable way to travel and a comfy inn with lots of warmth and food?
Thank heavens there was no Insta in the days of Caesar Augustus and his census decrees.
So in lieu of the traditional Christmas letter, I thought I’d just write a reminder, more to myself than anyone, about the the importance of seeing the goodness. We had an amazing Christmas dinner, delicious and too much, and that makes us wealthier than most people around the world. We opened presents in the comfort of our warm and safe home without fear of war or attack. The kids are in an extraordinary school learning lots of important things but also doing fun things like playing sports and celebrating friends birthdays when so many children aren’t doing any of that this year. Our family still has the members we had last Christmas when many families can’t sit down without mourning the empty chair.
We also had a lovely year. The kids have applied to high school. I was rescued from a cancer scare and received a promotion. We had a fantastic family summer trip to the Ozarks.
But tonight, I just keep looking at this tree. It’s really beautiful. And perfect for our house. For our family. I wouldn’t wish for another. Even though, sometimes, when looking at another, bigger, tree, I forget.